Duckie Brown’s current collection offers an alternative for all those men who would rather avoid the ubiquitous pastels that seem to be everywhere this spring. Of course, it does take a certain flair and daring to carry off a lot of what is in this particular collection that flouts the adage that most menswear summer collections are dull and pretty much the same.
Big, bold and oversized, the silhouettes are based on layering of clothing that has a vaguely Orientalist feeling about it: baggy trousers that approximate harem pants, drop-crotch leggings or almost knee-length shirts that start to resemble a traditional eastern kurta. In the hands of Steven Cox and Daniel Silver rather than the whole indicating straightforward exoticism – the Orientalist tendency that has been apparent in numerous designer’s collections of late- the end result veers in a distinctly tongue-in-cheek direction.
The turban-like hats might suggest a general Orientalism, but here they equally imply an ironic nod to the sideshow exoticism of circus fakirs and Boys Own adventure stories featuring brave little elephant mahouts from the 1930’s, especially when one sees the riotous colour combinations. Taking an entirely maximalist approach, everything from bold stripes and animal prints to plaids and bright primary colours have been combined in a way that almost defies the existence of traditional colour combination. The billowing loose cuts and bloated sizing only reinforce the rather comic feeling to it all: at any minute one might expect the wearer to pull a bunch of fake flowers from his sleeve or tip a bucket of water down his trousers. But, what better time for the circus to be in town than in the summer? Though the collection captures the jackass exuberance that rises with the temperature, one should not underestimate its practicality. The loose cuts afford generous cooling in the heat and practicality when out an about on the beach or in the city.
In fact, one suspects that Duckie Brown – whose very name attests to a less-than-serious approach to men’s fashion- are pulling a little sleight of hand with all this chaotic colour and garish combination clashes. It’s actually all really about the shape. The circus stunts may be the thing that primarily attracted attention on the catwalk, but at least one third of the current collection uses exactly the same approach to form in an entirely neutral palette of black, white and soft greys.
Sent down the runway first, it’s almost as if the show concept was to play with the idea of turning up the colour on a TV: starting with the monochromatic image and then twisting the knobs to the point of saturation. Yet, back at the monochrome starting point, the forms remain pristinely clear. Here, the layering retains its Orientalist feeling though it’s interesting that what has a perfume of India about it in colour immediately takes on a Chinese Shaolin stoicism in the neutral palette.
Perhaps rather smartly Steven Cox and Daniel Silver recognise that there are some men who entirely comfortable to be bold with form but shy away from dramatic gestures when it comes to colour.